A recent episode of Drunk History on Comedy Central told the story of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, the two geniuses behind Mickey Mouse and much of the Walt Disney company’s success.
If you haven’t heard of Ub Iwerks, don’t feel too bad. Most people haven’t, in much the same way that most people haven’t heard of Jack Kirby. Who was Jack Kirby? He was Stan Lee’s right-hand man for decades as they two created the Marvel Universe. You know all the Marvel movies that are killing it in the box office right now? Yeah, all of those are due as much to Jack Kirby as they are Stan Lee.
In both instances – Ub Iwerks and Jack Kirby – you have a very creative person who was a heavy introvert, paired with an outgoing and charismatic partner. Walt Disney could sell snow cones in the arctic and Stan Lee was a veritable rock star before comics even took off. By comparison, Ub and Jack were quiet, somewhat mousey, and socially awkward.
It’s easy to say Ub Iwerks and Jack Kirby were the creative geniuses, while Stan Lee and Walt Disney were the businessmen, but that isn’t fair to Stan and Walt. Both men were creative and innovative in their rights and deserve the mantle of genius every bit as their partners.
It would also be easy to say Ub Iwerks and Jack Kirby were screwed by their respective partners, but that again isn’t fair to Walt Disney and Stan Lee. A successful business is built on networking and making connections, an area where both Stan Lee and Walt Disney excelled.
While the nuances of the individual stories are fascinating in their own rights, what’s interesting is their similarities. Two very similar pairings, separated by twenty/thirty years, that ended very much the same way. It is intriguing to see such a similar story take place.
In much the same way, you have Vince McMahon and Joe Weider. Both these figures took what amounted to carnival sideshow attractions (professional wrestling in McMahon’s case, body building in Weider’s) and built them into not only main attractions in their own right, but took them to global heights. The parallels between McMahon and Weider are just as eerily similar as those of Disney/Iwerks to Lee/Kirby.
It makes you wonder about the archetypes at play in society, in business, in all walks of life.